Note: I am leaving this piece up for today (Wednesday) because of the response it has attracted. I’ll continue my commentary on the issues it raises tomorrow.
The New York Times published a piece yesterday on how church youth groups are using the video game Halo 3 to attract young people, specifically young men, who are just about the hardest group to reach of them all. The article prompted an opportunity for reflection on reaching youth and the lengths to which we go to do so.
Beginning with the immediate issue, I’m not sure how I feel about churches using Halo 3 to reach youth. It is a very violent game, and we’ve got to acknowledge that. With that said, though, the game is not as violent as some games are. I have played previous iterations, none of which incited me to commit violence against others. Should churches use video games to reach teens? That’s a tough question. It’s hard to reach teens. They are at once asking big questions and devoting themselves to minor matters. There is a reason that many young men become obsessed with sports or other diversions and many young men become obsessed with the school social scene or other pastimes. This is because they do not have to deal with the heavy matters of life as do adults. Yet at the same time teens do think a good deal and will consider material that is thoughtfully and interestingly presented. Teens are tough to reach, yes, but affecting material can and will move them and lead them to think about deeper things. They’ll gravitate to Halo 3, yes, but they will also ponder the higher questions of life in their bedrooms when alone and isolated from the immature and sometimes abrasive school environment.